Dunstable Town 3-0 Biggleswade United (HT 0-0) Attendance 42
The lowest attendance of the season probably had much to do with the freezing conditions, but this cup game was directed to be played at the expense of another cup game versus Aylesbury United in the challenge Trophy. The Bedfordshire Senior Cup takes precedence and indeed you do not need reminding that Dunstable Town were finalists last season and went down in a thrilling 5-4 defeat at the hands of the senior county non-league side, Luton Town, at Kenilworth Road, and only after extra time.
Inevitably, with the FA Vase game due to be played in four days’ time there was a judicious rearrangement of the team. Tony Burnett was given the right back role as Wayne Mills had a slight injury and both Jonathan Barnett and George Brinkman were given starts. I was also pleased to see the return of Fabio Bufano in the starting eleven. But on the bench were Jonathan Cooper, Chris Francis and Graeme Buchanan.
It was very pleasing to see Nick Gardner in goal for United. He was an important member of our successful youth team and racked up a number of first team games as cover for Paul Taylor. But being unable to dislodge the ‘Hammer’ Nick went initially to AFC and then to Biggleswade United. He was by far the busier keeper tonight and made a number of good saves.
George Brinkman seemed to want to make a point concerning his selection and had the first shot of the game, which was held by Gardner. His best effort later on was one that struck the cross-bar. Biggleswade were rather somnolent and subdued producing only token efforts in going forward but they were soon defending in depth. Roache forced a corner. Hutchins crossed to Barnett whose effort cleared the bar. Frater’s header was the next effort, bringing a throw-in. Brinkman’s pass to Roache in the penalty area was returned and the former slipped on the already freezing surface.
A Biggleswade free kick, wide on the left was put in by Ryan Nicholl to no good effect and Dunstable were on the attack again, with Roache trying to set up Frater before a timely intervention that characterised Biggleswade’s determination to hold out as long as possible. They did manage this for fifty-six minutes but with an anaemic forward line they produced no threats until very late in the game and efforts to counter were marred by ineffective passing and the subsequent loss of possession. A Carney near post corner was headed away by Stewart, following Gardner’s tip over the bar.
Burnett and Frater combined next and Roache was a target but Randall intervened well. Barnett and Hutchins tried another move but the final pass was a gift to Gardner. Biggleswade kept losing possession especially when the defence needed a breather. Hutchins sent Roache on a run with the striker slipping over. A free-kick from Carney was well defended, and Brinkman sought every chance to thread through himself. With most of the possession it was felt that United would crack but they held on grimly. Dunstable were going through quite a range from their repertoire, switching play, combinative moves, low and high crosses, but were finding the chances going to waste.
Ross Scotney tried a run but was on his own and dispossessed. There were a number of off-side decisions against Dunstable, and another free kick from United went hopelessly over the bar. Hutchins, Roache and Brinkman had a lively attack beaten away but Frater picked up the partial clearance but his shot was over the bar. Roache’s next effort from a good run saw his shot just creep by the far post. Brinkman’s pass to Frater was a good one but Stewart had seen to move and intervened. Biggleswade were coping well under pressure but needed to retain possession for at least a few good passes but they were continually shy in any semblance of attacking play.
But Dunstable needed a goal to reward their positive attacking play and it was surprising that one did not come in this one-sided first half. And as time went on the pitch looked all the more frozen and slippery. Brinkman was quite outstanding in his involvement, and seems to relish this midfield role. His shot that rattled the bar would have been appropriate reward if it had been a shade more accurate. I feel he deserved a goal tonight. Burnett fine tonight as an attacking full back performed ably in this unaccustomed role.
James Peters managed to tackle his way into the area but found he could do little with the chance and Taylor had yet a direct shot to save. Barnett had an ineffective free kick but no matter, the Blues were soon back on the attack, with Brinkman’s cross to Roache headed clear. A far post corner from United’s Scotney was quickly cleared for a swift counter but we were close to half-time and some partial grounds for concern at the lack of home goals. Frater had a deflected shot before the interval, and Carney’s follow up was wayward.
In the board room the good ladies of the Biggleswade committee were soberly drinking tea, whereas before the game they had repaired to the bar and quaffed a pint of lager each with the air of qualified consumers. I mentioned the hope that we would not go to extra time. The ladies assured me it would not as if expecting a breakthrough from Dunstable sooner than later. But it did not come until the fifty-sixth minute. The pattern of the first period was recreated and it seemed to be getting even colder. Hutchins put one over the bar and a cold looking Cooper came on for Mead who seemed to be struggling after a knock. Mead is a vital player for the Vase game so it made sense to take him off. Frater was coming in from the left and Carney seemed to be getting further and further forward and often unchallenged.
Hutchins brought a good save from Gardner, and Roache had a blocked shot before Cooper amusingly put a shot almost into the training ground. No-one has yet cleared that high fence, ad if they did words would need to be spoken. Brinkman was booked for dissent, the referee not buying the cheeky-chappie routine. Cooper and Hutchins combined well but Chris Francis, a sub warming up said to me that there was no real bite in the game as yet. Buchanan came on for Pickering, and Gardner saved well from Frater.
A good bit of play involving Brinkman saw Roache finally get the ball into the net and it was a typical goal from the top-scorer. A third Dunstable substitute came on with Francis replacing Frater. A free kick saw Francis unable to turn and shoot in time. Francis then struck the post with a shot. He then stumbled with another effort, but there was a need to get another goal to be safe. Bufano had a fine game as a centre half, and was reliable in possession and intervention. Cooper was an intervening and creative presence, often going along the flank or through the midfield, looking for the best pass. Cooper and Murray had a little spat that ended in a handshake after a bit of a wigging from the referee, but the game was free from any kind of hostility. Gardner continued to be busy and was reliable in the high crosses. Biggleswade were still defending well, but again it was notable that it was not until late in the game that they conspired to produce a real chance.
Cooper’s good work saw Roache add his and his team’s second after sixty-seven minutes, and that keeps up his goal a game average. Twenty-nine from twenty-nine is indeed prolific. The tie looked safe since there was such a paucity of chances from Biggleswade. Six minutes later an untroubled Newman Carney scored his fourth goal in Dunstable colours and I was delighted when he told me afterwards ‘that one was for you, Pipes.’ He must have known it is my birthday on Thursday!
There was an incident a little later when there was a reasonable appeal for a Biggleswade penalty. I would have given it, but the referee explained later that there was a prior foul on Cooper from McGuinness who made a stout appeal in vain. player which ruled out the spot kick. It wold not have made that much difference and the prime effort from Biggleswade saw Taylor save with his trailing leg from substitute James Honeyman. There was no further score and this may be seen as fair preparation for the Enfield game, which will undoubtedly be a much greater test for the Blues. Biggleswade United return to Creasey Park on 22 December, assuming the ground is not frozen or indeed under snow. A perpetual worry is the effect of form owing to postponements. Roache was doing his best to notch up a hat-trick, but it was not to be tonight. The Blues will face Biggleswade Town of the Southern League in the next round, and it will be at Creasey Park.
So, in many ways a routine win for the Blues on a night of inhospitable weather, with Shane Wood and Moses Olaleye among the players given a rest. Even so it was a strong line-up and it is right that players contest for a starting place. It is hoped that the weather is kind enough to see the Vase game go ahead since it is eagerly anticipated by both sets of supporters.
Paul Taylor, Tony Burnett, Daniel Mead, Damen Pickering, captain, Fabio Bufano, Newman Carney, goal, 75 minutes, Jonathan Barnett, GEORGE BRINKMAN, Blues’ man of the match, Lee Roache, two goals, 56 and 67 minutes, Nathan Frater, Daniel Hutchins.
Substitutes used – Jonathan Cooper, Chris Francis and Graeme Buchanan.
Not used – Mark Boyce and Wayne Mills.
Nick Gardner, Adam Randall, Jordan Mullen, Lee Bilcock, Lee Stewart, Angus McGuinness, Craig Meyrick, Ryan Nicholl, Sean Murray, captain, James Peters, Ross Scotney.
Substitutes- Stuart Childs, James Honeyman, Scott Waters, GK, Stuart Richardson.
Referee, Paul Forrester, assisted by Mark Benson and Tony Durnford.